At their budget workshop on Monday, Boyles and his fellow commissioners reviewed fiscal 2019 funding requests, totaling more than $290,000 from almost a dozen nonprofit entities.
SHALIMAR — While each of the nonprofit groups that seek annual monetary help from Okaloosa County is a worthy organization, county leaders cannot base their funding decisions on which group tugs on their heartstrings, says County Commissioner Nathan Boyles.
At their budget workshop on Monday, Boyles and his fellow commissioners reviewed fiscal 2019 funding requests, totaling more than $290,000 from almost a dozen nonprofit entities. The new budget year starts Oct. 1.
Much of the commission’s discussion at the workshop involved the need, brought up by Boyles, to have a competitive funding application process for various nonprofits.
Boyles received the informal consensus of his fellow commissioners to have county staff implement such a process. It could, Boyles said, require each applicant to show that it proactively performs a “core government service,” such as assisting the elderly.
The county’s existing funding policy for nonprofits includes criteria that, among other items, calls for each applicant to describe how its program “impacts the health, economic, or social well-being of the clients served and how such program serves a public purpose.”
In the past, however, it seemed like the county’s funding allocations for such groups depended on the current political climate, including who was serving on the commission, Commissioner Trey Goodwin said.
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel suggested that a lottery system might be the way to go when it comes to forming an equitable policy on funding the nonprofits.
While addressing current funding requests, Ketchel complained that Elder Services of Okaloosa County has been receiving the same annual county contribution of $11,847 since fiscal 2014. For the new budget year, Elder Services is asking for $22,000 from the county.
“They’re taking care of the poorest of the poor in our community,” Ketchel said. “Could we give at least $15,000?”
Boyles pointed out that there are many “good” nonprofit groups that the county helps fund, and lots of them that do not receive any county money.
“All of them are worthy,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope.”
After more discussion, the commission informally agreed with Boyles’ suggestion to provide $15,000 to Elder Services, $10,000 apiece to three museums, and staff-recommended funding amounts for various other nonprofit groups in the new budget year.
The three museums are the Baker Block Museum in Baker, the Carver-Hill Museum in Crestview and the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida in Valparaiso. Each of those museums has annually received $8,815 from the county since the start of fiscal 2016.
Commission Chairman Graham Fountain said he receives emails from tourists who tell him that they go to those museums.
Other nonprofit entities that the county is considering funding in the new budget year, and that have received county money in at least each of the past several years, are the Child Protection Team, the Early Learning Coalition, Head Start, Safe Connections, Shelter House and the Yellow River Soil & Water District.
Of those, the Yellow River Soil & Water District has submitted the largest individual funding request, at $70,215. That matches the total that the district received from the county this budget year.